There are so many things I didn't consider-- how long will it take to teach this? How long do I have to do the unit? How can they apply what I've given them so I know they understand? Are they listening to me? Are they taking notes? How can I get them to care? Who's not here today? How are they going to catch up? Wait, there's an orchestra practice today? 3/4 of the class won't be here 8th period? Can I teach anyway? What can I make them do? There is a lot more than you think about as a student. You can't just assume they get it like in high school, you have to explain things in a really detailed way that doesn't take up too much time. It’s really a difficult skill, trying to balance teaching the content and making sure they’re following instructions and actually learning the concepts.
There are also a lot of behind-the-scenes issues to consider as a teacher. Issues like planning and grading are concepts I didn’t even have to consider in my student teaching, I was simply presenting and interacting with the kids. Mr. Holman was tasked with balancing the timing of his lessons, given that the class had a lot to learn toward the end of the year. I had a little taste of this struggle as I had to fit a huge amount of information into only 42 minutes if I wanted to give the kids the time to apply their knowledge in a project, which was necessary for me to see if they had learned anything at all, and to give them the opportunity to go a little more in depth so they could explore the things that interest them and form their own opinions on this multi-faceted historical issue. For that reason, I designed the lesson to be more of an introduction to Exploration, and let them go more in depth in the project, but I needed to accept the reality that most of them would miss a lot of very important concepts. I needed to explain a lot of the big picture so they would have a foundation of knowledge to use when they were applying what the learned. It is also very important to me, especially given that the topic of European Exploration has a lot of positive and negative sides to it that they might not explore on their own.
There was also grading to consider. When kids did the work wrong or only did a part of the work, do you give them a failing grade? Do you give them the opportunity to make it up? Is it more important that they’re following the instructions or understanding the content? Is understanding the content enough if they don’t follow instructions? Is following directions enough if they don’t understand the content? If one girl understands the content really well and goes really in depth, following the instructions and creating an exceptional final product, does she deserve the same grade as her peer who follows directions and did the work correctly. Do they both get 10/10? Can the grades be relative to one another? But is that fair? Does grading even work? But like, what else is there? Ugh.
There is a lot to consider beyond teaching the content, and while I knew this to a certain extent before I started my senior search project, I wasn’t aware of how exhausting it would be to have to think about everything at the same time while teaching a class.
No matter how hard it got standing up in front of the class to teach, it was always rewarding. Seeing the kids listen, take notes, and engage in my presentation really reinforced my passion for teaching and learning from others. Especially rewarding was watching as kids answered my questions and seeing how proud they were of themselves when I complimented their insights. One particular girl impressed me immensely, and when I told her so she thanked me and told me that I made her feel very comfortable speaking in class. Hearing her say this made my day, and really reminded me, despite how exhausted I was, that teaching is what I should be doing for the rest of my life. It was the little things, like students being enthusiastic about answering my questions and saying “aww” upon hearing that it was my last day, that let me know I was doing what I should be doing.